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My question is twofold:

  1. What are the complete and exact rules that govern the epenthetic л in verb conjugations i.e. the л that is inserted either just in the first person singular of certain –и conjugation verbs (such as любить – люблю) or throughout the conjugation of certain -e conjugation verbs (such as трепать – треплю, треплешь, треплет, треплем, треплете, треплют) ?

  2. More importantly, what are the underlying phonological, etymological or historical rationales behind these rules ?

Can someone please review my comments on the first answer and address the pending questions so that I can close this question and award the bounty. Thank you very much,

1 Answer 1

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What are the complete and exact rules that govern the epenthetic л in verb conjugations

It's inserted between a bilabial consonant (b, p, m, f, v) and j (except before а): люблю, куплю, кормлю, графлю, ловлю, but любит, купит; любят, купят.

More importantly, what are the underlying phonological, etymological or historical rationales behind these rules ?

It's one of the manifestations of the law of rising sonority. It's not confined to the verb endings: земля < zemja, блюдо < biutta, Скопле < Skupi are all examples.

Other manifestation of this law, very closely related to the epenthetic l, is the iotation.

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  • Thank you very much. Do I therefore understand correctly that an epenthetic л would appear between any of the five consonants б, п, м, ф, в and the following three vowels e, ё or ю (as я would be an exception, as you noted above). 1) Is there any example with the letter ё? 2) And what about the sound “ji”: is there any example with such a sound/vowel (not sure I depicted the sound correctly though). 3) Am I missing any other vowel other than the three aforementioned?
    – Xavier
    Apr 3 at 10:46
  • Why doesn’t the л appear in the conjugation of the verb убить (to kill – убью́, убьёшь, убьёт, убьём, убьёте, убью́т) ? Is it because of the soft sign ь or is it another rule? Is it the same for бить (to beat) ?
    – Xavier
    Apr 3 at 12:23
  • And why there is no л appearing in the conjugation of the verb успеть (to be on time – успе́ю, успе́ешь, успе́ет, успе́ем, успе́ете, успе́ют). Is it because the e after the п is stressed and hence the sound “je” becomes “e” ?
    – Xavier
    Apr 3 at 12:29
  • And why there is no л appearing in the conjugation of the verb звать after the ё (to call, to name – зовёшь, зовёт, зовём, зовёте) ?
    – Xavier
    Apr 3 at 12:47
  • And why there is no л appearing in the conjugation of the verb вызвать (to call, to send – вы́зовешь, вы́зовет, вы́зовем and вы́зовете) ?
    – Xavier
    Apr 3 at 12:54

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